Tamale Shak, a Mexican restaurant in Gulfport MS, offers a fresh menu

A Tamale Shak customer surprised the three women working behind the counter on Thursday.

“I’m ordering something different,” he announced before ordering a burrito with beef, extra cheese and other toppings.

The man, dressed in a button and slacks, was not the only regular in the long queue at the brightly colored Gulfport restaurant. The cashier knew almost every customer that came through the doors during the hour I was there.

As I waited in line, I admired the decor inside the building with a small kitchen, order counter, and bar seating about five. License plates, dollar bills, Mardi Gras hats and beads line the walls. The slate menu is simple: you can order tacos, a burrito, quesadillas, nachos, bowls, and of course tamales.

It was my first time at Tamale Shak, although my friend Brooke Necaise had been suggesting I try it for years. I brought my friend Jarvis with me for lunch.

The line never wavered as we ate, and we ordered what a customer in front of us suggested – we each tried a quesadilla and shared beef nachos loaded with queso. Jarvis also tried a beef taco with the restaurant’s beloved and spicy “Shak sauce.”

The chicken and beef quesadillas were overflowing with fresh meat and gooey cheese. The flavor was mild but packed a whole lot, and the tortilla was crispy. Fresh pico on nachos pairs deliciously with savory chips and creamy queso cheese. The rice and beans in the nachos were a surprising touch.

The chicken quesadilla and beef nachos loaded at Tamale Shak in Gulfport. Justin Mitchell [email protected]

Jarvis and I tried hard but couldn’t finish our meals.

Tamale Shak’s best sellers are tamales and nachos. The three women working in the kitchen work as a unit, and some of their favorites include the shrimp quesadilla or the shrimp bowl with seasoned rice, shrimp, cheese and fresh pico.

At Tamale Shak, everything is prepared fresh that day — the first employee arrives at the restaurant at 5:30 a.m. to start cooking.

The restaurant has outdoor seating and an indoor table, and you can enjoy a cocktail or a beer at the bar if you wish. And if the line is out the door, don’t worry. We received our meals less than 10 minutes after ordering.

Tamale Shak is located on 30th Avenue in downtown Gulfport. Justin Mitchell [email protected]

If you go to Tamale Shak

Customers order and pick up food at Tamale Shak on 30th Avenue in Gulfport. Justin Mitchell [email protected]

This story was originally published September 16, 2022 7:30 a.m.

Justin Mitchell is the Sun Herald’s News Editor and works on McClatchy’s Audience Engagement and Development team. It also reports on LGBTQ issues in the Deep South, with a particular focus on Mississippi.

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